This month of your birth
has crept in upon me again,
slipped over the window sill
and into the corner of my room
where a perfect square of moonlight
seems to have up taken residence
and, outside, where the birds,
a whole choir of them, whose names
you never bothered to learn even when
mother recited them over and over again
as she pointed to the secret places
she thought they were hiding
under eaves or in the tangled branches,
are singing their hearts out
as she would always say then
and where now the boisterous cicadas
are joining in that twilight overture
This month of your birth
One can never prepare enough
For such surprise visits as this
One that must have flown in
Through a window left open
By mother, or was it me
Or by both our common longing
To see the ones that we missed
At such a time so punctured
By distance and an unquiet kind of silence
Which weighs more than all the burdens
That keep us keeping our lives and loves
I do not know how it is possible
not to pause, to stop, to listen
when a single bird’s first notes
suddenly rise above the subtle hum
of the city’s opening or to ignore
the wonder when one spring day
descends unexpectedly to revive
this town in the midst of winter.
I do not know how to sing praises
as wholeheartedly as the throng
of crows gathered at the crown
of a leaf-barren tree whose cants
seem like cacophony to me
but must be the joyful noises
that they were made to sing.
I do not know how.Read more "How"
When I was young I used to drive
with no companion or destination in mind.
Cutting through heavy valley heat on the 101
then curving toward the coast through Topanga Canyon
1969, on an unmarked road by a no trespassing sign,
parked between the boulders, eucalyptus and
sage with four-track off and eyes closed
I’m seventeen and waiting for a
transformation—that wasn’t coming that
Or any time soon.
For every hasty engagement
there was a Benedict Canyon.
For every cleaving together
there was geography.
In a room
with no books,
on the walls,
with a click
you can look
over the shoulder
of Marc Chagall.
With his brush,
you can glide,
fly a blue horse
through a mackerel sky,
dance over the yard
in the garb of a bride,
or carry her
supine over Paris.
I watch the full moon struggle up the redwood
branch by branch and sympathize. So changeable,
tonight a little mirror on the dark, next week
a sliver of lozenge disappearing in the stars.
A wounded being, not a self-starter,
as the astrophysicists might put it,
just a cold misshapen rock made alluring
by a dose of sunlight and the silent longing
of millions across history, wanting to be—
even three days a month––illumined,
silvering the silent forests, meditating
on the darkened lakes of the Italian Alps,
caressing the high slopes of the Rockies
That spring, I was ready to drop piano lessons. I wanted free school day afternoons. I wanted to be driven far out of town in beat-up jalopies at high speeds. Put on greasy lipstick dark as bitter chocolate so that some boy would think I was at least fifteen. I wanted to dangle a lit cigarette and drink gin and gingers in roadside dives, like in the movies. I wanted the boy behind the wheel to say, “Hey, you’re cool and sassy for a girl.”
My mother didn’t fancy my growing up so fast. She said, “Give it one more summer, honey.” Meaning the piano.
I crumbled. “Okay, but that’s it.”Read more "Piano Lessons"
and the casket cream white,
done off-white with pink
roses, and her face
in the casket
with pink lips.
one of those griefs
where the people are quiet,
except for her sister,
once, sobbed like a saw
through the service,
pulling lumber to pieces,
sending birds out of trees,
knocking down toilet seats
in all nearby houses.
I once positioned my outpost on earth –
at the time, within earshot of owls
and a lake’s short waves –
to be the center of all communication
beaming in from everywhere, out
to all the warped, rounded corners
of this universe. I was hoping
to fool that alien sense
I imagined as native to many,
that I was actually practically cut off
from the prime gist of being alive.
The woodchuck’s paw prints led to the hole under
our house in Maine. We saw him sometimes
in summer: a bowling ball of brown fur, rolling
across the backyard, grown fat on our flowers.
He ate the heads off the orange poppies,
then lay on his back as if having opium dreams.
At first, I hated him as I hated his cousins,
the fat squirrels who swung from the bird feeder,
gobbling seeds meant for the chickadees. Yet,
after a few years, I grew fond of our woodchuck,
imagined him as a character in a children’s book;
an elderly bachelor in a waistcoat.